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10 Tips to Prioritize Your Happiness (and Why This Matters)

by Silvia

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We’re all in pursuit of happiness. Some find it just to have it escape again like a wild rabbit — others don’t, but go to great lengths to convince the world they have. But a few lucky ones know how to keep it.

What does this come down to? This last group of people has learned how to prioritize their happiness. Science has uncovered dozens of ways to do this, big and small, obvious and surprising. There are so many options that really, the only thing that could keep you from being happy is a lack of desire. But since you’re reading this page, that’s clearly not the case.

So are you ready to add more color and spice to your life? Everything you need to know is laid out for you below. Let’s get reading! 

10 ways to prioritize your happiness

Sometimes, it might feel like happiness is always just outside your reach. 

But there are some very tangible, and surprisingly simple things you can do to increase it. These 10 tips will give you a very solid foundation for a happy life. 

1. Exercise

Alright, let’s get this over with — exercise is good for you. There, I said it!

You might be tired of hearing people tell you to exercise when the couch feels so much more comfortable than the stationary bike. I know I used to read advice like this with begrudging agreement.

But hear me out. I was definitely not an exercise type of person. It took me 7 years to develop a steady habit of going to the gym. Now I look forward to going to the gym a good 4-5 times per week. And, I even *gasp* enjoy it.

What changed? I stopped expecting exercise to turn me into Pamela Reif and started seeing it as an investment in my happiness. And it really is. People with moderate to high activity levels have significantly higher life satisfaction and happiness. This goes for all ages, so there’s no such thing as being “too old to start”. 

What’s even better, exercise boosts both short-term and long-term happiness. Move your body regularly, and you’ll have a happier life overall.

But if you’re having a bad day and need a pick-me-up, even just five minutes of moderate exercise can cheer you up. 

2. Build a feeling of being in control of your life

Have you ever heard of self-construal?

Basically, it’s how independent or connected to others you see yourself. It’s closely related to self-reflection. And, it’s another important key to prioritizing your happiness. 

The more independent you consider your identity, the happier you can be. Researchers comment that this may be because feeling in control of your life plays a significant role in being happy. 

So how do you work on feeling independent and in control?

The first thing you can do is look for evidence this is already true. Even if things way out of your control are happening in your life, there are things you can bring about through your responses and actions, however small. Keep a list of them if you have to. 

You can also work on your mindset. You cannot control what anyone else says or does, but you do have full control over yourself. No matter how someone behaves towards you, you always have the choice of who you want to be in your response. 

And lastly, a useful tool is setting healthy boundaries and learning to enforce them. Sometimes we may feel we lack control when in reality, we could have more of it if we spoke up. 

💡 By the way: Do you find it hard to be happy and in control of your life? It may not be your fault. To help you feel better, we’ve condensed the information of 100’s of articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet to help you be more in control. 👇

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3. Don’t let self-reflection get you down

Above, we mentioned self-construal, which is a related concept to self-reflection.

Self-reflection is also useful in becoming happier. It helps you grow as a person, increases your motivation, and can boost your confidence too.

But there’s another side to the coin: when you already feel happy, doing a lot of self-reflection can actually make it hard to stay happy

If you do something kind but then begin to analyze your intentions, you might begin to feel you had selfish reasons. Accomplishments you were proud of might stop seeming so great. It’s kind of like looking at a beautiful painting too closely and finding mistakes in the tiny brush strokes that ruin the overall impression for you afterward. 

Researchers concluded that self-reflection can have different effects on happiness, depending on how happy you already feel. 

So while it’s good to reflect on yourself effectively, make sure you don’t overdo it. Some things don’t have to be questioned and analyzed — give yourself room to just live and enjoy life too. 

4. Invest in building healthy relationships 

Imagine for a moment living your life with no close relationships. Just you in a city full of strangers or acquaintances. You’ll quickly understand why healthy relationships are crucial to your happiness. 

They brighten up everything in life. You’ll have someone to celebrate with you in joyful moments and comfort you in sorrowful ones. 

Studies have also found they make life’s discontents more manageable and delay mental and physical health problems. Heck, they’re more important to a long and happy life than fame, money, social class, IQ, or even genes. 

What’s important here is to build high-quality, deep connections — superficial or shallow relationships won’t cut it. 

However, they can be in any area of your life — even at work. In fact, good coworker relationships are the top factor of happiness at work. Since many of us spend 40 hours per week working, it would be a shame to miss out on all this potential happiness! 

5. Set achievable goals

You may have heard that people who set goals are happier — but you may be surprised to hear exactly why.

Most people think that happiness is tied to the completion of a goal. And that’s what we often tell ourselves. “I’ll be happy when I lose 10 pounds, or when I earn that promotion, or when I travel around the world.” 

The truth is, these things will make you happy, but not for very long. You’ll get used to your slimmer body, higher rank, or travel lifestyle pretty quickly. Your happiness will stabilize back to around what it was before.

So how do goals make us happy exactly? Just by setting them, it seems. 

A study found that people who set goals they consider achievable have the greatest increase in happiness — even if they don’t end up achieving those goals. 

If this sounds baffling, remember what we mentioned above. Feeling in control of your life is a significant part of feeling happy, and having achievable goals can definitely help you do that. 

Though of course, you should aim to actually achieve the goals you set for yourself. But it can give you great peace of mind to know that there’s no pressure, at least as far as your happiness is concerned. 

6. Be open to a range of positive emotions

Speaking of setting goals, you might be familiar with the SMART model, which encourages you to make your goals specific and measurable. 

This is great advice for things like losing weight or gaining new skills, it’s actually counterproductive when the goal itself is happiness

For example, let’s say you go to watch a new movie and hope to feel excited about it. The movie doesn’t turn out to be quite as thrilling as you expected, and you leave the cinema disappointed. 

If you set a more general goal of feeling happy rather than specifically excited, you could open yourself up to a much wider range of positive emotions. Perhaps the movie would make you laugh, think, or relax. But if you were focused on wanting to feel excited, you’d miss those moments.  

That’s just one example — this goes for any experience from a vacation to listening to music, as well as making a purchase like a new dress or car. 

The difference in happiness is pretty small during the event itself. But when you set more general goals for happiness, you feel happier for much longer afterward. 

7. Accept your weaknesses and build on your strengths 

Humans are hardwired to pay a lot of attention to problems — and it’s probably a good thing, too. You’re much more likely to live a good life if you notice that weird sound in the bushes or the odd smell wafting from the pantry.

When applied to ourselves though, it can make us pretty miserable. A psychologist once told me that his clients can fill an entire page and then some with things they don’t like about themselves. But when he asks them what their strengths are, they draw a blank. 

Don’t get me wrong, working on yourself is most certainly a good thing. You should never let a weakness stop you from becoming who you want to be, because you can always turn it into a strength.

But some weaknesses are just not worth it. Does it really matter if you’re bad at organizing trips when your friends are experts and enjoy doing it too? If a weakness isn’t keeping you from a big goal or is integral to your identity, then accept it and focus on developing your strengths instead. This will help you be happier

8. Forgive

Grudges are like the cuckoos of the emotional world. A lot of us would be perfectly capable of feeling happier if only feelings like anger and resentment would stop crowding it out. 

Every person you feel spite for is a person you could feel love towards instead — or at least, feel neutral. Forgiving someone may seem a whole range of ways, from unappealing to downright unacceptable. At the end of the day though, the only thing you’re accomplishing is ruining your own happiness. 

When you forgive, you give yourself the gift of better mental and emotional well-being, as well as increased physical health. But there’s something even more impressive: forgiveness can give you the same benefits as 40 years of Zen training. 

That’s a shortcut to mental peace and well-being if I ever saw one. Forgiveness can be easier said than done, but thankfully we have a detailed guide on letting go of anger. It will take you step by step through the whole process.

9. Focus on having an abundance of time

A lot of us live life in a frantic rush, running from one appointment to the next, making mile-long to-do and New Year’s resolution lists, and having way more plans in our minds than we can possibly cram into reality.

If you want to prioritize your happiness, it’s time to see what you can offload from your plate.  

Researchers found that feeling as if you never have enough time is a major happiness killer. In other words, it’s important to feel like you have enough time. 

But we all have just 24 hours in a day — so what can you do?

Well, first of all, understand that time is limited. If you decide to spend 3 hours working overtime, you won’t be able to spend them relaxing at home, immersed in a hobby, or playing with your kids. Many people, when given the choice, prefer to work extra hours in order to earn more money. But if you do that enough, you end up with no time to actually spend and enjoy that money. Think carefully about how you decide to spend your time.

And secondly, you can choose activities that help increase the feeling of time abundance. Volunteering is one such activity. Awe-inducing experiences are another — watching sunsets, whales, and the like. (And as a bonus, both volunteering and feeling awe directly increases your happiness too!)

10. Consciously choose happiness

Have you heard those sweet wedding vows where people say “I will choose you every single day”?

Well, it kind of works like that with happiness too. It won’t just magically come to you once you hit a certain number of accomplishments, or find a key like unlocking a secret level in a video game. If you truly want to prioritize your happiness, you must make a conscious choice every day to be happy. Big commitment, yes — but it sure is worth it. 

💡 By the way: If you want to start feeling better and more productive, I’ve condensed the information of 100’s of our articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet here. 👇

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Wrapping up

We all could use a little — or a lot — more joy, and we’d definitely be better human beings for it. I hope that the 10 tips above will help you prioritize happiness in your life. Be sure to pass it along to someone else you know who you’d love to see happier.

What has helped you prioritize your happiness the most? Share your positive transformations with us and other readers in the comments below!

Silvia Adamyova AuthorLinkedIn Logo

Born in Slovakia, raised in Canada. Online English teacher, editor, copywriter, and translator. You’ll find me holed up in a bookstore, typing in a cafe, or immersed in a philosophical debate.

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